Impact of Superstorm Sandy on Medicare Patients' Utilization of Hospitals and Emergency Departments.

TitleImpact of Superstorm Sandy on Medicare Patients' Utilization of Hospitals and Emergency Departments.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsStryckman B, Walsh L, Carr BG, Hupert N, Lurie N
JournalWest J Emerg Med
Date Published2017 Oct
KeywordsCyclonic Storms, Disasters, Emergency Service, Hospital, Hospitals, Humans, Medicare, New Jersey, Retrospective Studies, United States

INTRODUCTION: National health security requires that healthcare facilities be prepared to provide rapid, effective emergency and trauma care to all patients affected by a catastrophic event. We sought to quantify changes in healthcare utilization patterns for an at-risk Medicare population before, during, and after Superstorm Sandy's 2012 landfall in New Jersey (NJ).

METHODS: This study is a retrospective cohort study of Medicare beneficiaries impacted by Superstorm Sandy. We compared hospital emergency department (ED) and healthcare facility inpatient utilization in the weeks before and after Superstorm Sandy landfall using a 20% random sample of Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries continuously enrolled in 2011 and 2012 (N=224,116). Outcome measures were pre-storm discharges (or transfers), average length of stay, service intensity weight, and post-storm ED visits resulting in either discharge or hospital admission.

RESULTS: In the pre-storm week, hospital transfers from skilled nursing facilities (SNF) increased by 39% and inpatient discharges had a 0.3 day decreased mean length of stay compared to the prior year. In the post-storm week, ED visits increased by 14% statewide; of these additional "surge" patients, 20% were admitted to the hospital. The increase in ED demand was more than double the statewide average in the most highly impacted coastal regions (35% versus 14%).

CONCLUSION: Superstorm Sandy impacted both pre- and post-storm patient movement in New Jersey; post-landfall ED surge was associated with overall storm impact, which was greatest in coastal counties. A significant increase in the number and severity of pre-storm transfer patients, in particular from SNF, as well as in post-storm ED visits and inpatient admissions, draws attention to the importance of collaborative regional approaches to healthcare in large-scale events.

Alternate JournalWest J Emerg Med
PubMed ID29085534
PubMed Central IDPMC5654871
Faculty Publication